Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2002. Indicator 4. Rates of Participation in Means-tested Assistance Programs

03/01/2002

Figure IND 4. Participation Rates in the AFDC/TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Programs: Selected Years

Figure IND 4.  Participation Rates in the AFDC/TANF, Food Stamp and SSI Programs: Selected Years

Source:  AFDC and SSI participation rates are tabulated using TRIM3 microsimulation model, while food stamp participation rates are from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model. See Tables IND 4a, IND 4b, and IND 4c for details.

  • Whereas Indicator 3 examined participants as a percentage of the total population (recipiency rates), this indicator examines participating families or households as a percentage of the estimated eligible population (participation rates, also known as “take up” rates).
  • Participation rates for both AFDC/TANF and the Food Stamp Program fell significantly between 1995 and 1999, with the sharpest decline between 1996 and 1998.
  • Only 52 percent of the families estimated as eligible for TANF actually enrolled and received benefits in an average month in 1999. This was significantly lower than AFDC participation rates, which ranged from 77 percent to 86 percent between 1981 and 1996. The food stamp participation rate in 1999 was also 52 percent, its lowest level since 1990.
  • In contrast to the declines in AFDC/TANF and Food Stamp Program participation, the SSI participation rate rose by more than 9 percentage points between 1993 and 1999. In 1999, the SSI participation rate was 74 percent, well above the rates for the other two programs.
  • Simulations of the AFDC/TANF eligible population show relatively small changes in the number of families eligible for benefits between 1995 and 1998. These data suggest that the large caseload declines between 1995 and 1998 were largely a result of declining participation or “take up” rates among the eligible populations. Between 1998 and 1999, however, the eligible population dropped by roughly 600,000 families, to the lowest level since 1990.

Table IND 4a. Number and Percentage of Eligible Families Participating in AFDC/TANF: Selected Years

  Eligible Families 
(in millions)
Participating Families 
(in millions)
Participation Rate
(percent)
1981 4.8 3.8 80.2
1983 4.7 3.7 77.7
1985 4.7 3.7 79.3
1987 4.9 3.8 76.7
1988 4.8 3.7 78.4
1989 4.5 3.8 83.6
1990 4.9 4.1 82.2
1992 5.6 4.8 85.7
1993 6.1 5.0 81.7
1994 6.1 5.0 82.6
1994 (revised) 6.1 5.0 82.1
1995 5.7 4.8 84.3
1996 5.6 4.4 78.9
1997 5.5 3.7 67.5
1997 (adjusted) 5.4 3.7 69.2
1998 5.5 3.1 55.8
1999 4.9 2.6 52.3

Notes: Participation rates are estimated by an Urban Institute model (TRIM3) which uses CPS data to simulate AFDC/TANF eligibility and participation for an average month, by calendar year. There have been small changes in estimating methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. Most notably, since 1994, the model has been revised to more accurately estimate SSI participation among children, and since 1997 the model was adjusted to more accurately exclude ineligible immigrants. The numbers of eligible and participating families shown above include the territories and pregnant women without children, even though these two small groups are excluded from the TRIM model. The numbers shown here implicitly assume that participation rates for the territories and for pregnant women with no other children are the same as for all other eligibles.

Source: DHHS, Administration for Children and Families caseload tabulations, and unpublished data from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.

 

Table IND 4b. Number and Percentage of Eligible Households Participating in the Food Stamp Program: Selected Years

  Eligible Households
(in millions)
Participating Households 
(in millions)
Participation Rate 
(percent)
September 76 16.3 5.3 33
February 78 14.0 5.3 38
August 80 14.0 7.4 52
August 82 14.5 7.5 51
August 84 14.2 7.3 52
August 86 15.3 7.1 47
August 88 14.9 7.0 47
August 90 14.5 8.0 55
August 91 15.6 9.2 59
August 92 16.7 10.2 62
August 93 17.0 10.9 64
August 94 (o) 17.0 11.0 65
September 94 (r) 15.5 10.7 69
September 95 15.1 10.4 69
September 96 15.5 9.9 64
September 97 14.8 8.4 57
September 98 14.2 7.6 54
September 99 13.9 7.3 52

Note:  Eligible households estimated from a Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. model that uses CPS data to simulate the Food Stamp Program. Caseload data are from USDA, FNS program operations caseload data. There have been small changes in estimating methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. Most notably, the model was revised in 1994 to produce more accurate (and lower) estimates of eligible households. The original 1994 estimate and estimates for previous years show higher estimates of eligibles and lower participation rates relative to the revised estimate for 1994 and estimates for subsequent years.

Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Trends in Food Stamp Program Participation Rates: 1994 to 1999.

  • The proportion of eligible households who participated in the Food Stamp program fell from 64 percent in 1996 to 52 percent in 1999, a drop of 12 percentage points. This is the fourth year in a row that there has been a decline in Food Stamp participation rates.
  • In addition, there was a decline in the number of households eligible for the Food Stamp program, from 15.5 million in September 1996 to just under 14 million in September 1999. This decline was driven by new eligibility restrictions on aliens and able-bodied adults without dependent children, growth in the economy, changes in the TANF program, and other factors.
  • The significant drop in participating households, from just under 10 million households in September 1996 to 7.3 million households in September 1999, reflects the combined effect of a decline in the eligible population and lower participation rates.

Table IND 4c. Percentage of Eligible Adult Units Participating in the SSI Program, by Type: 1993-1999

  All Adult Units One-Person Units Married-Couple Units
Aged Disabled
1993 62.0 57.0 71.0 37.0
1994 65.0 58.4 73.0 43.9
1995 69.1 64.9 74.0 52.2
1996 66.6 60.4 73.5 46.7
1997 71.1 62.7 79.4 49.1
1998 70.7 63.6 77.9 48.1
1999 74.3 65.8 83.3 47.8

Notes: Participation rates estimated using the TRIM3 microsimulation model, which uses CPS data to simulate SSI eligibility for an average month, by calendar year. There have been small changes in estimating methodology over time, due to model improvements and revisions to the CPS. In particular, the model was revised in 1997 to more accurately exclude ineligible immigrants. Thus the increased participation rate in 1997 is partly due to a revision in estimating methodology. Also note that the figure for married-couple units is based on very small sample sizes — married couple units were only about 7.5 percent of the eligible adults units and 5.1 percent of the units receiving SSI in the average month of 1998.

Source:  Unpublished data from the TRIM3 microsimulation model.

  • In contrast to the declining participation rates for the AFDC/TANF and Food Stamp programs, the participation rate for adult units in the SSI Program has been increasing, from 62 percent in 1993, to 74 percent in 1999. Note, however, that some of the apparent growth between 1996 and 1997 may be due to a revision in estimating methodology, as noted above.
  • In 1999, as in past years, disabled adults in one-person units had a higher participation rate (83 percent) than both aged adults in one-person units (66 percent) and adults in married-couple units (48 percent).

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